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Paying for College

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Federal Student Aid is Home to the FAFSA

FAFSA® stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid.  The results of the FAFSA® are used in determining student grants (Pell Grants), work study, and types and amounts of subsidized student loans available.  A completed FAFSA® may also be required for you to receive a scholarship from your institution.  All students applying to college need to submit a FAFSA®.

The tips below are summaries of information gathered from

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Completing the FAFSA

WHEN should I complete my FAFSA®?

The FAFSA® for school year 2021-2022 (your first year of college) will open at FAFSA.GOV on October 1, 2020.  The FAFSA® should be completed as soon as after October 1 as possible.  Federal aid is first come, first served.  Alabama does not have a set deadline by which you must submit your FAFSA®; however, the school you plan to attend may need it for admission and to determine aid awards such as scholarships or other financial assistance.

What to do BEFORE completing the FAFSA®

Students (and typically one parent) need to sign up for an FSA ID at  FSAID.ED.GOV

You will click on the “Create One” link just above the login boxes. 

Each FSA ID must be created using a unique email address and should not be shared with anyone.

  • Enter your log-in information – Create a username and password.  Passwords may not contain any form of your name, address, phone number, or Social Security number.

  • Enter your personal information – Enter your personal information and provide the answers to challenge questions using information that you will remember.

  • Verify your account – Agree to the terms and conditions. Verification codes will be sent via text to your phone (if submitted) and to your e-mail address.

*SAVE THIS LOGIN* – You will complete another FAFSA® every year that you attend college.  Also, do not share this login with anyone.

Gather documents needed for the 2021-2022 FAFSA®​

  • Your Social Security number (if not a US citizen, Alien Registration Number)

  • Your parents’ Social Security numbers, if you are a dependent student

  • Federal tax returns for 2019 (filed in 2020) for you and your parents if you are a dependent student

  • Records of any other income, such as child support received, interest income, and veterans non-education benefits, for you, and for your parents if you are a dependent student

  • Information on cash; savings and checking account balances; investments, including stocks and bonds and real estate - but not including the home in which you live; and business and farm assets for you, and for your parents if you are a dependent student

HOW do I complete the FAFSA®?

Starting on October 1, 2020 visit FAFSA.GOV and log in with your FSA ID.  High school seniors applying for college next school year are seeking aid for school year 2021-2022. 

Follow the step-by-step instructions provided online to complete your application.

  • Always ensure that you use the .gov extension of the FAFSA® website.  If a website asks for a fee or charges you money to complete the FAFSA®, do not enter payment information – remember the first “F” in FAFSA® stands for FREE.

  • It is recommended that students and parents take time to complete the FAFSA® together.  Typically, the FAFSA® takes about 30 minutes to complete.

You can also download the Federal Financial Aid App to complete the FAFSA securely from a mobile device.


Start a New FAFSA® or Log In using your FSA ID.

Follow the instructions on each screen entering the information requested.  Make sure to select ALL colleges you are interested in attending even if you have not yet applied.  (You CAN apply to schools AFTER submitting your FAFSA®).  Finalize all steps and click submit at the end of the application process.

Determining dependency (whether you need parents' info or not) can be simplified by utilizing the following questionnaire: Am I Dependent or Independent?

If you do not live with both parents, you will need to determine which parent's information to report on the FAFSA.  Use this infographic to guide you: Who Is My Parent When I Fill Out The FAFSA?


If you work with your student as they complete the application, you can sign your portion at that time.  If you need to log in at a later time to sign the FAFSA® for your student, enter the student’s information on the login screen; DO NOT use the student’s FSA ID to log in to sign your portion.

You may be able to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to pre-fill information from tax documents.  Look for this option as you work through the FAFSA® application.  Tax information from the 2019 tax return (filed in 2020) should be used for the 2021-2022 FAFSA®.

Getting HELP with the FAFSA®

  • If you have questions as you progress through the application, contact Federal Student Aid for assistance. Help by phone is available at 1-800-4FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) Monday-Friday from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm central time. You can also email or start a live chat on the website for assistance during your application.
  • Your counselor(s) and career coach will gladly work with you to complete your application; however, be aware that many questions about your application will need to be answered by Federal Student Aid.

What Happens AFTER Completing the FAFSA®

Once your application is processed, you will receive a copy of your Student Aid Report (SAR). Review this report and make sure all the information is complete and accurate.  If you have missing or incorrect information, complete or correct your FAFSA® as soon as possible. 

Your SAR does not tell you how much aid you will receive from your chosen school(s) - each college you listed is responsible for creating your award package and disbursing your financial aid, and they will communicate with you regarding that step in the process.  You can compare information from each college to determine which choice may be the best financial option for you based on these awards.  You should contact the financial aid office at the college(s) you plan to attend to find out if there are additional requirements for receiving financial aid and to learn more about the process of applying for aid at that college.  Make sure you follow through on any necessary steps to receive your financial aid package by staying in contact with your financial aid office at your college.

Tutorial Videos Channels on YouTube

Federal Student Aid YouTube Channel


2021-2022 FAFSA Worksheet (to prepare for the web application) 

2021-2022 FAFSA Paper Form (can be submitted via mail instead of the online application - will delay processing)

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Your first scholarship search should be at the school(s) you plan to attend. Investigate funds available for incoming freshmen, those specific to your area of study, and external offers only available to students at your college. The scholarships below are offered by other organizations such as community foundations and national advocacy groups.

Scholarships for Calhoun County Students

Scholarship Search Databases

Also, check with your school's guidance page for additional information.

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